Leadership, like taking the plunge into the chilly Irish Sea, requires taking the initiative. This past week was full of many great spontaneous explorations of Dublin. Not only did my friends and I take advantage of every opportunity outside of our work schedules to hit new locations and restaurants in city center, but I got the chance to become a tour guide in this city which was very new to me only a month and a half ago. My friend, Katie, had been backpacking across Europe after her May-mester in Florence, Italy, and had messaged me only on Thursday that she and her family were visiting Dublin and that she would like to see me. I was excited to see her, but also slightly nervous. I put this undue pressure on myself that I had to be this perfect tour guide who could show her every remarkable site in Dublin so that she would enjoy her time here with me. So, when I first met up with her at Trinity College in city center, I had a brief plan in my mind of what we may be able to do. However, as a non-native to the city myself, I was by no means an expert. We ended up simply walking around, enjoying the beautiful afternoon and delicious Irish food and drink. Things did not go according to plan, but it was okay. We were spontaneous and ended up having and enjoyable Pitt reunion abroad.
Speaking of spontaneity, the next day my friends and I took an impromptu trip to Dun Laoghaire to explore the beautiful coast and maybe even take a dip into the sea on the uncharacteristically warm Irish day. While we didn’t get the chance to take a plunge in Dun Laoghaire in time, since we had scheduled tours of Irish distilleries and the Guinness storehouse in the afternoon, we saw a beautiful beach on our train ride back, and we all agreed we would make the trek back later that night to brave the frigid sea. This spontaneity resulted in one of my favorite memories of the whole trip so far, taking a dip in the sea, smiling through the shivering and chattering teeth. Standing at the edge of the ocean was nerve-wracking. But, at some point, I felt I needed to bite the bullet and just dive in, or miss out on an amazing experience.
Leadership can be nerve-wracking, similarly. Putting yourself in a leadership position can put you under the scrutiny of others and can cause a lot of stress. Prior to the trip, my leadership style tended to want to avoid these two things, by operating as a leader in a more behind the scenes role. However, this style has been less practical while here in Dublin. As the only intern on an already small team, I am already under the microscope more than I would like. However, this lack of invisibility, forces me to propel my strength of my leadership and my personality forward. At home, I prefer being introverted, keeping to myself and only being outgoing with my select group of trusted friends; however, with my team here at UCD, I have wanted to put myself out there more, get to know them, and also be a leader to further help them with their projects.
While I am not leading a team as an intern by any means, I still have to show a strong, initiative-seizing leadership style in my independence of my position. As previously mentioned, my team operates remotely for about half of the week. Thus, I am often left to my own devices on-campus as I working on the tasks expected of me. However, often times I make progress faster than expected. Previously, I may have been less inclined to take the initiative and find more opportunities for myself to work on in the downtime for a fear of coming off as too eager; however, I have learned that my coworkers really appreciate my self-leadership and inclination to ask for more projects. I have also been sometimes scared to speak up if I have a suggestion for fixing an error or problem my team encounters, since my impostor syndrome tends to shoot me down. I don’t want to come across as ignorant to people who are more qualified and experienced than me. However, I have found my team appreciates my ideas and suggestions (even if they do not work) because it shows an enthusiasm for leading the team through hardship. I have come out of my shell, having less doubts in my competence as an Information Science student but also as a leader.
Being on a small team, as the only American student at UCD IT Services has forced me out of my leadership comfort zone. No more are the days of being behind the scenes and being a silent leader. While that style of leadership is still valid, and I have always been comfortable with; taking charge and suggesting solutions, vocalizing my confusions, communicating with my teammates, and adapting to problems by taking the initiative and being spontaneous, are all leadership skills I want to take back to the States with me.
Stepping up as a leader can be scary, but, just like taking the final, full-body plunge into the frigid Irish Sea can cause hesitation, refusing to do so can hold you back from growing and having valuable experiences.